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NE Michigan can avoid court in civil fights

ALPENA — A civil dispute doesn’t have to mean a day in court, thanks to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Recently released for use in a limited number of counties, MI Resolve is an online mediation program that allows parties to resolve disputes in a legally binding way by logging on to the Supreme Court-sponsored website. A link is available at mimediation.com.

A neutral attorney with 40 hours of mediation training is available to help both parties identify a solution that best works for them, and walks the parties through the steps needed to reach a resolution.

Through the service, the State Court Administrative Office aims to provide a free, quick, and easy way to resolve contract and neighborhood disputes, claims alleging money is owed, or other issues that are typically filed as small claims or landlord/tenant cases in district court.

Currently, MI Resolve is only available in 17 Michigan counties, including Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties. The northeast corner of the state was targeted because it already has a successful on-site mediation program in place, according to John Nevin, SCAO spokesman. A center in Gaylord has provided in-person mediation for 10 counties in the region. Its successful services are now being extended online, reaching out to those for whom travel might be prohibitive.

“Access to justice is a big issue, especially in rural areas,” Nevin said, “so we wanted to launch MI Resolve where we could have the biggest impact, opening the doors to our justice system.”

With MI Resolve, people who need legal help for small claims issues don’t need to pay a babysitter, travel for hours, or find a place to park at the courthouse, Nevin said. They also don’t have to hire a lawyer. For now, the service is free.

Users may begin the MI Resolve process any time, without having filed a case in court. If a case is already pending, the service may be used to try to reach a settlement before a hearing or trial date.

Both parties in a dispute are able to communicate electronically with each other and with a mediator as soon as one is assigned. Parties can also choose to work without a mediator or to arrange to meet with a mediator in person or via videoconference.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.